Another resounding victory and some more beautiful football. However, even though we brushed aside a decent Swansea team there is room to ruminate that we could be even better, says David Martin.
David Moyes was left with a few decisions to make before the game and I have to admit his lineup took me a little by surprise. I never expected Seamus Coleman to get the nod at right back in a million years and assumed, and hoped that Phil Neville would slot in there. Instead Neville was retained in midfield to allow Fellaini to stay forward. Moyes also dropped Sylvain Distin for John Heitinga, an uncharacteristic shake up in the defence perhaps influenced by a shakey performance at Newcastle. Many including myself have been championing Heitinga to start but few would expect him to go for it and even then I assumed Jagielka would be one to give way. With Mirallas playing on the right and Anichebe retained up top after his positive contribution at Newcastle it was destined to be an interesting game and indeed it was.
From the kick off we looked much like we have since the opening day, a West Brom blip aside. We push forward and passed incisively combining pace with inventive and varied passing. Both Fellaini and Anichebe started well using their physicality to bully the Swansea defence and we were unlucky not to be ahead early as Anichebe in particular looked threatening. Mirallas seemed to be playing a roaming role and his pace and movement provided a threat on the right we haven’t seen for a long time while Pienaar and Baines continued to thrive on the left. As such we were threatening Swansea’s goal again and again with a number of attempts. Anichebe in particular looked sharp and seems far leaner than I have ever seen him and when we did breakthrough it was inevitable he would supply the finish. Much has been made of Fellaini’s “ball to elbow” and it may well have been disallowed on another day but we were battering on the door for a long time and the goal was going to happen regardless. We could in fact feel aggrieved not have earned a penalty as the game progressed Swansea got increasingly frustrated with their inability to handle our skillful passing and creativity. It was no real surprise when they drew yellow card after yellow card and it was something of an inevitability that a Swansea player would see red.
This isn’t to say we had it all our own way. Swansea had a number of chances to get back into the game and this was largely down to what you would like to think a ring rusty Heitinga. He was guilty of being caught out of position on several occasions and appeared to be lacking in the physicality you got from Distin. Of course this was offset a little by his improved distribution but there is no doubt he will have to get up to speed quicker if he plans on cementing a place in the squad. The central midfield pairing of Neville and Osman didn’t help the pressure on the central defence with both being guilty of allowing Swansea to pass straight through them on several occasions and we were fortunate Tim Howard returned to imperious form. Separate them and they can offer something to the team, together they are a weak link and are too lightweight to battle for possession. We are certainly missing Gibson although fortunately our forward play is masking that beautifully!
On another day we could have had six or seven goals against Swansea and were guilty of some wasteful finishing but we still looked very impressive and played some great football. Most impressive was the link up play and threat of Fellaini and Anichebe with Anichebe vindicating himself with, in my opinion a Man of the Match performance. Hopefully this can continue into the coming weeks and give Moyes a real headache when Jelavic is fit again.
It is exciting to think that we looked so good today despite having several injuries and an exploitable central defence and midfield. The substitutes who came on did well and it will have been nice for Oviedo to get some game time. When was the last time we could afford to bring Pienaar off? With first team players to return and if we tighten up in defence there is no limit to how far we can go this season. Maybe it’s time to stop looking down at our Mersey rivals and start looking up?